The Intimate Awkward: An Exploration of the Intersection Between Awkwardness and Intimacy on Stage Open Access

Schmitt, Serena (Spring 2019)

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These past two semesters I have researched and explored the intersection between intimacy and awkwardness on stage. My journey began when my contact improvisation class made me realize the physical intimacy that dancers so regularly experience in their practice. From there I used work by previous choreographers, personal anecdotes, and discussions with my cast to develop more concrete ideas about where intimacy and awkwardness meet. Through collaboration with my dancers, I turned this into a 35-minute work existing in 6 sections: Afternoon Delight. Each section served a different purpose and role in presenting a holistic look at where intimacy and awkwardness exist in dance and in life.

Afternoon Delight was a bit provocative at times, using humor to pull the audience in and keep them entertained, but it was far more than just an entertaining show. The layers of choices made by both myself and the cast raised questions about what we expect to see on stage and why; what makes us, as humans uncomfortable; and how our experiences of intimacy and awkwardness differ from person to person. My cast bravely and confidently presented this work, which I know at times was not easy for them and required them to expose a certain level of their lives and selves. I personally revealed this same personal intimacy through my writing. I did not always write things that would typically be thought of as appropriate or academic, I shared personal stories and experiences. I wanted to point out that this, too, can be academic. It takes a great deal of courageousness to share personal stories on a document that will be published, but doing so is extremely important to making the outside reader and viewer understand my project and my journey.

This experience taught me so much about myself. So many people have told me this piece exemplified my personality. This is certainly true. Though I may at times seem overly nonchalant or too casual, I tend to think of this approach differently. I believe our greatest fault as humans, is overthinking. People tend to look too deeply for meaning, follow strict precedents and rules, and take themselves too seriously. We should take what we do and what we care about seriously, but there is absolutely no benefit to taking ourselves seriously, it only distances us from others and puts limits on the boundaries of our work. These beliefs and thoughts are something I have discovered about myself in my time as an undergraduate, and I feel that they came out in this work. I also feel that they, and this project, say something larger about our society as a whole. Why do people feel uncomfortable in these situations, why is one thing thought of as less serious or less academic, why does intimacy feel awkward and awkwardness feel intimate? I don’t have any answers to these questions, if anything this project raised more questions for me than it answered, but I do feel I have learned a great deal about myself and the way that people relate to intimacy and awkwardness as it is represented on stage.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 1

The Inspiration 1 Initial Research 2 Logistics 6

II. Afternoon Delight: Rehearsals and Performances 9

Eye Contact 9 The Pina Colada Song 11 Awkward Sex 12 A Brazilian Wax 14 Crying in Public 16 Awkwardness and Intimacy in Dance 17

III. Results, Analysis, and Conclusion 19

Audience Feedback 19 Dancers’ Reflections 20 Choreographic Reflection 21 Conclusion 22

Appendix A: Promotional Flyer 24

Appendix B: Concert Program 25

Appendix C: Performance Photographs (Credit Lori Teague) 27

References 32

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